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Indonesia detains American journalist over visa regulations

Jan 22 2020

Indonesia detains American journalist over visa regulationsAn American journalist is facing up to five years in an Indonesian jail and a fine on charges of violating immigration regulations, a lawyer and officials said Wednesday. Philip Jacobson of California was detained Tuesday in Palangkaraya city on Borneo island. The government has promised to ease visa restrictions for international media since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014.

Wintry mess targets central US into late week while travel hazards abound

Jan 22 2020

Wintry mess targets central US into late week while travel hazards aboundA prolonged period of unsettled weather is in store for the midsection of the United States as a slow-moving, multifaceted storm system tracks through the region.Conditions across southeastern Nebraska deteriorated quickly Tuesday night as freezing rain developed, resulting in numerous accidents between Hastings and Omaha. The Nebraska State Patrol urged drivers to stay off the roads on Tuesday night following multiple accidents. (Twitter/@NSP_TroopC) Early Wednesday morning, hazardous driving conditions were also reported along Interstate 94 in Minnesota where state troopers had responded to numerous accidents, including a jackknifed pickup truck that was pulling a trailer.The threat for a disruptive wintry mixture of precipitation will expand northeastward into the Midwest Wednesday as the storm system crawls into the region.Cities at risk for travel delays Wednesday morning courtesy of wintry conditions include Rochester, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; even St. Joseph, Missouri. As the day progresses Wednesday, temperatures will climb to right around the freezing mark across much of the Midwest, diminishing the threat for slick spots on main thoroughfares. Localized slick spots will likely be limited to roadways that receive no treatment or along elevated areas like bridges and overpasses.Snowfall accumulations across the Midwest through Wednesday will not amount to too much, especially by Midwesterners' standards.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPWith marginal temperatures in place, a general coating to an inch or two of snowfall is expected, with accumulations generally on grassy surfaces. The storm system will continue to keep many of the same areas across the Midwest grey and dreary on Thursday as well. Some locales may switch back and forth between rain and snow as temperatures hover in the lower to middle 30s. This would include places like St. Louis and Kansas City.A separate wave of upper-level energy is forecast to slide out of the Plains and into the storm system on Thursday, helping to give the storm a boost of energy. Along with adding the threat for a steadier snow in the Midwest, it will also bring the threat for heavy rain and thunderstorms farther south. The winter storm seen on radar across the central U.S. on Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2020. (AccuWeather) If the added wave of upper-level energy is able to inject enough cold air into this storm system, it will bring along the threat for a more substantial threat for snowfall across the Midwest into Thursday night. Places across Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, that face the threat of a rain and snow mix during the day on Thursday, may have a complete changeover to snow during the overnight hours. This would include areas in between the Interstate 70 and 80 corridors in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.If the added boost of energy fails to inject enough cold air into the storm system by Thursday night, many of those places may just continue to have a mixture of rain and snow into Friday morning. The storm system is expected to continue to slowly spin its way towards the Ohio Valley Friday, shifting the threat for wintry weather eastward.Again, depending on how cold the air mass is in the vicinity of the storm system will determine how widespread the snowfall will be. Regardless of the magnitude of the cold weather, a focal point for some of the steadiest and heaviest snowfall will lie around the Mississippi River in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The storm system will begin to make a more eastwardly jog into Saturday, bringing an end to the wet and wintry weather across Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and much of Wisconsin and Illinois. Bouts of rain and snow will likely continue to persist across Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, but again with temperatures hovering in the lower to middle 30s, accumulations may mainly be on non-paved surfaces.At the same time, the threat for wintry weather will expand into the Northeast.The entire Midwest and western Great Lakes region will finally say goodbye to the storm system by Sunday, and unlike previous storms to track across the region this January, slightly above-average temperatures are expected in the wake of the system.Keep checking back on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

Confused, Iran Scrambles to Figure Out Trump

Jan 22 2020

Confused, Iran Scrambles to Figure Out TrumpIn the wake of the U.S. killing of General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran is scrambling to figure out how to respond to President Trump. Throughout 2019, Iran ratcheted up threats and tensions, targeting oil tankers in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. troops in Iraq via proxies, testing Washington’s response. The decision to kill Soleimani, who arrived at Baghdad International Airport without any apparent suspicion of his impending death, threw down a gauntlet to Tehran that left the Ayatollah and the IRGC grasping for response options. This is a lesson to be learned from the recent Iran tensions: The U.S. can strike back at Iran and its allies without a major war resulting, so long as Iran is surprised or confused by the U.S. response.Iran, in response, fired ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq because it didn’t know what else to do. Ballistic missiles enabled Iran to strike without risking its own casualties and to showcase a technology that it has and that the U.S. lacked defenses against in Iraq. But the strike was limited in scope, and Iran hoped that at worst the U.S. would respond with cruise missiles or some similar kind of missile strike. How do we know this? Iran didn’t put its whole country on a war footing when it fired the missiles. It did down a civilian Ukrainian Airlines flight by mistake, showing that it expected some kind of aerial retaliation.Iran tries to project an image of itself as massively powerful and cunning, sending its constantly smiling foreign minister, Javad Zarif, abroad to demonstrate its ability to open doors from Europe to Asia. Closer to home, Iran pushes relations with Turkey, Qatar, India, Oman, and other countries. Iran boasts of massive revenge for its losses. All last year, Iranian media featured articles about its military technological achievements, such as new drones, missiles, and warships. But behind the facade of strength and boasting, Iran prefers long-term incremental achievements and influence entrenchment in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.Take the Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq throughout 2019 as an example. Iran can read U.S. media and official statements to gauge U.S. response. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Iraq in May to warn of possible Iranian escalation. From that moment Iran did escalate, attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and downing a U.S. drone in June. In Iraq, rockets were fired at bases where U.S. forces are located. Pompeo warned in December that “Iran’s proxies have recently conducted several attacks” in Iraq and that the U.S. would respond directly if Iran harmed U.S. personnel. David Schenker, State Department assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, said that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq were shelling Iraqi bases where U.S. forces are located.Iran didn’t expect the U.S. to carry through with a powerful response because it could read U.S. responses to the June drone downing and knew that Trump had refrained from a strike on Iran. Whether by mistake or intention, a rocket attack by Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah in late December killed a U.S. contractor near Kirkuk. Five Kataib Hezbollah sites were hit with U.S. airstrikes in response, and dozens were killed. Iran predicted that a show of force at the U.S. embassy would embarrass Washington and show the U.S. who is boss in Iraq. On Twitter on December 31, Pompeo singled out Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iran, and other Iraqi proxies of Iran as responsible for the attack on the U.S. embassy. Tehran’s leaders could have read that tweet as the threat that it was. Instead, Muhandis met Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad two days later, without fear that he was being followed by a U.S. drone that would soon turn his SUV into a smoldering wreck.The decision to go off script and strike directly at Soleimani and Muhandis has been termed “regime disruption,” a purposeful attempt to confuse Tehran by doing something unprecedented. Iran’s initial reaction was muted despite is boasts of “hard revenge,” because it doesn’t know what to do. It wants to keep an open account with the U.S., as a threat to do more. But Tehran’s usual attempt to control the tempo of conflict in the Middle East has been blunted.Lesson learned: Iran does best when it gets to set the narrative through its good-cop/bad-cop strategy of military bluster and political sweet talk, played by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. But what does Iran do when it faces complex challenges? In Syria, Israel has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets, and Iran has responded with desultory rocket fire. The attacks appear to have reached a point where Iran expects them and shrugs them off, because, as with Soleimani, it doesn’t know how to respond to Israel. It has provided Hezbollah with a massive arsenal of rockets and wants to equip them with precision guidance, but Tehran must know that you get to use this massive arsenal only once before you provoke a war with Israel. That means that Hezbollah has one shot and that Iran must preserve that threat for a rainy day.Where Iran succeeds in its incrementalism is in the Gulf and in dealings with Europe over the Iran deal. Iran has walked away from key aspects of the deal over the past year, giving Europe 60-day warnings. Iran did the same in the Gulf, judging that Saudi Arabia would not respond to a drone and cruise-missile attack in September against its Abaiq refinery. Typically, when 25 drones and nine cruise missiles strike a massive refinery, the country would go to war in response. But Iran knows that Saudi Arabia can’t afford a real war that would destabilize the Gulf and oil exports. Riyadh and its wealthy Gulf neighbors have more to lose than Iran does in such a scenario.Iran expects its adversaries to follow a script, and it has a ready-made tit-for-tat response. The U.S. left the Iran deal and struck Soleimani and Muhandis, surprising Tehran. Killing another IRGC commander would have diminishing returns, just as sanctions seem to no longer surprise Tehran. This is a challenge for American strategists: Devise a strategy whose core is to do the opposite of what the enemy expects. A combination of Seinfeld’s George and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The more Iran has to focus on what the U.S. might do next, the less Iran can plan on how to attack the U.S. and its allies, including Israel.

Menendez and Graham Partner Up to Craft a New Iran Deal

Jan 22 2020

Menendez and Graham Partner Up to Craft a New Iran DealSen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have teamed up to work on drafting potential contours for negotiations with Tehran over the country’s nuclear programming and a roadmap for a new deal, according to Graham and two other congressional aides familiar with the matter.“I’ve been working with Senator Menendez on this for some time,” Graham told The Daily Beast in an interview last week. “We need a new way forward. And I’ve been trying to think of alternatives.”Graham told The Daily Beast in an interview in August that he was working with senior Trump administration officials on an alternative to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. Part of that effort included fielding ideas from outside actors, including foreign officials. Since then, Graham has met with Menendez—although only a few times—on how to kickstart a bipartisan congressional effort to reform the administration’s Iran policy.According to sources individuals familiar with the Graham-Menendez partnership, the two senators have largely talked about constructing an actionable plan to present to other lawmakers and to the White House. But the two sides have yet to agree on exactly how to get the ball rolling, according to those sources. One individual said Menendez wanted to work with Graham because the South Carolina lawmaker had gained the president’s ear on Iran over the last year.Although the duo has spoken about teaming up for some time, sources say the lawmakers are focused now more than ever on crafting a new deal following the killing of Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani. Following the strike, Democrats in the Senate, including Menendez, called out senior officials in the Trump administration for not offering proper intelligence briefings to Congress on what led to the strike. Menendez told MSNBC earlier this month that the administration suggested in briefings there was an imminent threat to American interests but that there was “no clear definition of what they consider imminent.”The senator also called on the administration to declassify the official notification provided to Congress about the Soleimani strike.Graham, on the other hand, applauded President Trump and told The Daily Beast that the administration should continue to keep the military option on the table if Iran were to continue to threaten American interests in the Middle East. Graham suggested the U.S. strike Iranian oil assets in the country, pointing to refineries in particular. Menendez, on the other hand, has urged the administration to up its diplomatic outreach following the strike rather than continue to rely on its military might.Despite their division on Trump’s decision to strike Soleimani, both lawmakers opposed the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.“I have looked into my own soul, and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it,” Menendez said in a 2015 speech. “It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.”At the time of the deal’s proposal in 2015, Menendez advocated that the Obama administration continue to levy sanctions on Iran in order to change Tehran’s behavior and keep it from eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon. Although Graham’s and Menendez’s public statements on Iran have varied, both lawmakers seem to agree on one point: The Trump administration’s strategy isn’t working.Since Trump took office, Menendez has criticized the Trump administration’s Iran strategy as only emboldening Tehran. And while Graham tends to support Trump publicly, the South Carolina lawmaker has been openly critical of how the White House responds to Iran’s malign activities in the region.In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Graham said the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign—meant to cripple Iran’s economy with sanctions—was working but needed to be harsher and combined with military deterrence. Team Trump Thought It Could Contain Iran With ‘Maximum Pressure.’ The Attacks Got Worse.Before the Soleimani strike, Iran policy experts, some of whom worked with the Obama administration, said Tehran would not engage in talks about a revised nuclear deal unless the U.S. rolled back at least some of its sanctions on the country. Now those experts say Tehran, having rolled back its commitments under the former deal, is not likely to engage in any meaningful conversation with the U.S. on nuclear power, at least in the short term.Meanwhile, two officials in the Treasury Department say their unit is continuously drawing up additional sanctions for Iran on the chance Trump wants to hit the country with additional punishments in the near future.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

China Will Keep Buying Our Palm Oil, Malaysia’s Trade Chief Says

Jan 22 2020

China Will Keep Buying Our Palm Oil, Malaysia’s Trade Chief Says(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Malaysia is unlikely to suffer any loss in its palm oil business from China, despite Beijing pledging to boost soybean purchases from the U.S. amid the trade war, according to the Southeast Asian nation’s trade chief.“I don’t think so,” Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview with Haslinda Amin at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when asked about the impact on its critical palm oil exports.“China and Malaysia have had a long relationship,” and Kuala Lumpur has offered diplomatic and economic help to Beijing amid “challenges” with the U.S., he said. “The Chinese have continued to be a good friend.”The initial U.S.-China trade deal signed last week has a potential downside for Malaysia, as it’s expected to depress palm oil prices. China has sought to reassure other trading partners that things will remain business as usual even as the government pledged, under that agreement with the U.S., to significantly increase purchases of American soybeans.Friction between the U.S. and China isn’t the only trade spat impacting Malaysia, as it grapples with India’s move to reduce imports of Malaysian palm oil. That means $1.4 billion of processed palm products may need to find new buyers, said Khor Yu Leng, an independent economist with Segi Enam Advisors.Leiking aimed to damp worries around the India-Malaysia spat, saying the two governments are engaged on the issue and that Malaysia hasn’t been singled out by India, an “important partner” of theirs.Pockets of the Malaysian economy have benefited from trade diversions driven by U.S.-China tensions, with an investment surge seen in industry centers like Penang. However, overall trade has declined, with the contraction in the exports worsening toward the end of 2019.“We’re glad that America and China have at least tried to take some global responsibility over the challenges that the whole world had faced because of their tariff disagreements,” Leiking said of the phase-one deal. “From our side, the Asean side will continue, I think, having a continuous relationship with China as well as America.”\--With assistance from Anuradha Raghu.To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Jamrisko in Singapore at mjamrisko@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at, Michael S. Arnold, Karthikeyan SundaramFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.